Pest pressure remains light in Salinas Valley

It remains a mystery: So far, very few pests have shown up for the annual spring garden party in the Salinas Valley. It’s almost like someone forgot to send out invitations for the “must attend” event of the season.

“It’s been really quiet,” says Frankie Lam, Monterey County’s newly appointed UCCE farm advisor. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense — we had a fairly warm, dry winter so we’d expect to see more pressure, but it just hasn’t materialized.”

Worm pressure, in particular, has been so light he’s having trouble even finding locations to conduct research trials. The only pest of real significance so far has been the aphid complex.

“We are seeing lettuce aphids and green peach aphids,” Lam says. “The other aphid species, such as potato aphid and foxglove aphid, aren’t much of a factor this year.”

Even thrips are relatively quiet throughout the Salinas Valley, he says. “They just haven’t been present in very high numbers yet, although we’re starting to see some movement out of artichokes into vegetables, so that could be something to watch.”

The light brown apple moth (LBAM) is an ever-present concern, though it’s not yet an issue in the field. “All growers are concerned about this one, and rightly so,” Lam says. “It could affect a wide range of crops. It’s not really that difficult to control and there are no chemical resistance issues that we know of at this point.

“But who knows? As it moves into a new environment, we don’t know how it will behave or reproduce. So far in Monterey County, it’s only been found in nurseries — none on vegetables. The biggest challenge right now is for USDA to figure out how to carry out an eradication program.”

In May, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) implemented a federal order to restrict the interstate movement of certain regulated articles, including nursery stock, cut flowers, and greenery from several counties in California and the entire state of Hawaii in order to prevent the spread of LBAM.

Under the order, all California shipments of host articles originating within 1.5 miles of an LBAM detection must be visually inspected and certified as free of the pest prior to movement.

So, other than aphid populations, minor thrips pressure, and the LBAM threat, the Salinas Valley has been a sleeper thus far this season.

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